Meiko (Aoi Miyazaki), and her boyfriend Taneda (Kengo Kora), live together in her apartment and their relationship seems to be in a really great spot. As a recent college graduate, Meiko is stuck in an office job that she doesn't like and her boyfriend is only working part-time as an animator. Also unhappy with his job, he enjoys playing music with his band Solanin, even if they mostly just get together to jam. Even though neither of them are really happy with their work situations, they're happy to have and support each other. However, when Meiko expresses her desire to quit her job and live off of her savings until she finds what she wants to do, their relationship is tested. Tanedo starts to feel a lot of stress about everything and it begins to take it's toll on them both. Meiko is also feeling stressed because she doesn't have the nerve to tell her mother that she quit her job. Taneda's bandmates, Billy (Kenta Kiritani), and Kenichi (Yoichi Kondo), are all in situations where they have to finally grow up, face reality, and get "real" jobs. Even though their relationship is in a slump, Meiko encourages Taneda to start taking his band seriously because they're good enough to make it and she knows he's unhappy at work. He agrees to it and him and his bandmates are soon on their way to putting out their first demo. They ship the CD around to different labels and just when they think they've snagged some interest, it turns out that the company simply wants the band to write original material for an idol singer they represent. Feeling discouraged and defeated, Taneda tells Meiko that he's stepping out for a bit and ends up disappearing for days with no correspondence to anyone, which of course leaves Meiko worried sick. It seems he simply wanted to figure things out in his head and needed to get away. Sure, it's a selfish way to do it, but sometimes you do what you have to do. He calls Meiko to inform her that he's sorted some stuff out and he's ready to come home, but little could she know, that phone call and the events that followed would change her life forever. Can Meiko find a path that truly makes her happy? And will Solanin ever get their big break?
In true spoiler-free fashion, I chose to end the proceeding paragraph where I did for a reason. The events surrounding that fateful phone call with Taneda change the direction of Solanin's story, as well as the emotional tone. That being said, the story of Solanin is a great one and one that's based off a manga of the same name by Inio Asano. It's a look at the lives of young people, the feeling of misdirection and confusion that many of us, no matter where we're from, feel and can relate to. It's a story of desire and dreams; wanting and wishing for more than you have and knowing that even though life can be a real pain sometimes, we can't let ourselves get pinned down by the negativity. Aoi Miyazaki and Kengo Kora are great at portraying a young couple in love, who are weighed down by the realities of life, yet deep down they strive for more out of it. I think we've all been there and some of us still are. As a viewer, we're really reminded of the importance of living life and seizing the day while we still can. The film has a nice, independent look to it, as opposed to a Hollywood-type gloss, which suits the overall feel and tone of the story. Some might say Solanin is a rock-themed film, but I'll just say the music in it is awesome, with Asian Kung-Fu Generation contributing the superb title-track. I have to say that the movie starts to feel long at times, at a little over two hours in length, but the third act tries to make up for it with an emotional display of friendship that I feel most viewers will find touching and satisfying.
It's longer than it needs to be and a bit heavy-handed at times, but Solanin still gets it's point across with a thought-provoking story and fine performances. You might want to bring the box of tissues with you on this one. (Lee)